Prep Basketball: Northwest Cabarrus boys 75, East Rowan 74
By David Shaw
GRANITE QUARRY ó There are losses that leave a team bruised, battered and emotionally scuffed. This one cut an artery.
East Rowan’s boys had a chance to alter the NPC landscape Friday night. But a ferocious, fourth-quarter comeback by Northwest Cabarrus sent the host Mustangs to bed with a 75-74 loss.
“All we had to do was finish,” said East guard Will Mancil. “A little more effort and we would have it. It was in our hands and we let it slip through our fingertips.”
East (6-10, 5-7) coughed up a 15-point lead dropped a game it seemingly had secured, a game littered with positives and one decisive negative.
“Oh man,” Caleb Allen said. “In the middle of the third quarter, I thought we were gonna win by 20 or 25. We were playing that well.”
And Northwest (14-3, 10-2) wasn’t. The Trojans ó who clobbered East when the teams met Dec. 5 in Kannapolis ó trailed 59-44 after Jordan Moore grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a putback with 1:14 remaining in the third period.
“We were very fortunate,” said winning coach Daniel Jenkins. “We haven’t faced much adversity this season so we weren’t sure how to react. We looked frustrated. But when we challenged them to change their attitudes with about a minute to go in the third quarter, they bought into it.”
And a frantic fourth quarter bought them a victory. Northwest was 12 points down entering the final period and still trailed 65-56 after East freshman Cole Honeycutt hit a short jumper from the right side with 4:48 remaining. Things looked even sweeter 30 seconds later when 6-foot-5 Northwest center Ira Hines fouled out.
“I think we got in his head and he got frustrated,” Allen said.
Problem is, when everything seems to be coming your way, it usually means you’re in the wrong lane. And that’s precisely when the Mustangs folded like a backyard lawn chair.
“You can’t collapse like that,” sophomore Chris McKenzie vented afterward. “It’s unacceptable. We have to play better.”
Northwest revved its engine and outscored the Mustangs 28-15 in the fourth quarter. There were four 3-pointers and three consecutive layups by forward Stephen Kiser, the last of which tied the score 71-71 with 1:18 to play.
“Sometimes guys get nervous when they’re trying so hard,” said East coach Greg McKenzie. “You don’t expect to have a mental lapse like that at the end of a game. But we did.”
Northwest took the lead for keeps when Jeff Felton converted a pair of free throws with 50.3 seconds on the clock. Teammate Juwan Reid capped a crunch-time 10-0 run with another foul shot that made it 75-71 with 10.5 ticks left.
“We just fell apart,” senior Daniel Plummer tried to explain. “We knew what we had to do. We just couldn’t hold up.”
Camouflaged in the collapse was a stellar performance by Honeycutt, who drained a pair of 3-pointers in the first half and finished with a career-high 13 points. Senior Jordan Moore added a pivotal spark when he scored seven straight points late in the third quarter, helping the Mustangs build that too-good-to-be-true, 15-point edge.
“Hopefully, the next time we get in that situation we’ll handle it a little better,” said Greg McKenzie. “Maybe that’s the good thing we learned tonight.”
NWC (75) ó Honeycutt 25, Kiser 16, Felton 8, Seager 6, West 6, Brand 5, Hines 4, Wright 4, Reid 1.East rowan (74) ó Honeycutt 13, Moore 11, Plummer 11, McKenzie 11, Weber 9, Ajayi 8, Allen 6, Mancil 5.
NWC 17 19 11 28 ó 75
E. Rowan 21 20 18 15 ó 74